This weekend, the ladies of Saturday Night Live debuted a hilarious new parody video that’s too realistic. The video stars Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Sasheer Zamata, Melissa Villaseñor, and Leslie Jones in a Lane Bryant-esque body-positive ad gone wrong. It all starts out pretty empowering. The women pose and smile while a voiceover describes them as “beautiful, strong, and gorgeous at any size.” It says the women deserve clothes that “fit and flatter,” and we are totally here for that. But then, things go sour. “That’s why you shop at CHONK,” the voiceover says. Yup, CHONK. The voiceover switches to a demonic bass tone when saying the store name, just to emphasize how terrible it is. The women in the ad look as confused as we are. As the voiceover continues to say CHONK, the womens’ smiles turn to rage and they basically walk out of the ad.
“And try out tween girls’ department, ‘Lil Chonk,'” the voiceover says, again in that demonic voice. “No, I don’t want this for my daughter!” Aidy Bryant shouts before storming off camera, taking a teen girl with her.
The fake ad hits at many real issues with today’s clothing stores. Stores have definitely made some progress in the past few years when it comes to clothing women of all sizes. Plus-size retailer Lane Bryant offers trendy, upscale clothes for women sizes 14 through 32, and the brand’s inspiring ad campaigns have brought the store into the public eye. Lane Bryant isn’t pulling a body-shaming CHONK, and instead uplifting women of all sizes. And online store ModCloth offers a full range of sizes, making shopping more accessible. But that’s just a few stores, and there’s still a helluva lot of progress to be made. The average woman in the U.S. wears between a size 16 and 18, and many women’s clothing stores weirdly don’t offer above a size 16. That means the average woman has to seek out a specialty store or the rare store that carries all sizes (like all of them should!) to actually find clothes that fit. Doesn’t seem right, does it? And while some women like the label “plus-size”—it helps women find stores where they can actually buy clothes—others don’t like being labeled and sectioned off from other sizes. It can be stigmatizing.
The CHONK ad points to the main issue at hand: Why can’t all stores carry all sizes and styles for all women? The voiceover at the end of the ad says, “And for the guy in your life, visit our men’s store, ‘Normal Clothes.'” It’s hyperbolic, but it hits at the fact that it’s a real struggle for women to just pop into a store and find something that fits. Life would be so much easier if all women’s clothing stores carried all sizes. Yes, the CHONK ad might be a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s right in showing that for women above a size 16, finding, say, a dress for work isn’t nearly the same task as it is for women under a size 16. It’s an (unfair) challenge that often comes with (unnecessary) stigma.